Hearing the diagnosis of autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be devastating news for a parent that comes with profound, lasting implications for their child and entire family. The statistics are staggering, an estimated 6,339 children in Utah have been diagnosed with autism.
A lot of times a parent has a nagging sense that something is just not quite right, or that their child seems to be regressing. They see their cheerful, talkative, inquisitive toddler become subdued, less verbal, and less engaged. It can be a scary time of questioning and frustrated second guessing, especially if they are told that their child will "grow out of it" all the while the symptoms continue to worsen.
The University of Utah's Autism Diagnostic Clinic understands, respects and acknowledges this underlying fear. They know that parents dread learning that what they suspect their child may be struggling with may be confirmed, yet know that they are desperate for concrete answers so that they can push forward in helping their child. The younger a child is diagnosed, the better, because children's brains have the remarkable ability to grow and develop, when stimulated while they are still young.
The University of Utah's Autism Diagnostic Clinic knows these children can be helped if they are diagnosed early enough, but oftentimes, families do not have the means to pay for the comprehensive clinical diagnosis, upwards of $1,000. It is for these patients, whose parents are desperate for answers, that the Autism Hope Fund was established.
The donor sponsored Autism Hope Fund provides assistance to patients who have no other means to pay for the formal diagnostic evaluation that the University of Utah's Autism Diagnostic Clinic specializes in. These assessments give those struggling with autism clear diagnoses and orientation to resources to help them cope and improve their lives.
Kristen Rupert, local entrepreneur/concert promoter, who also works for Zumiez at the Fashion Place Mall, decided to take matters into her own hands. Kristen chose to raise autism awareness after learning that her immediate boss at Zumiez has a child with Autism. Together, with her collegues in the Saxony Project , arranged a benefit concert for the Autism Hope Fund that raised over $1,092.
Kristen, Angel Fisher and Katie Rupert, founded the Saxony Project which is non-profit organization "for locals by locals". The Saxony women work tirelessly to get exposure for local musicians, artists and small businesses. The Saxony Project Founders advertise they are "non-profit coordinate fundraisers", who organize events for charity. They accomplish this goal by arranging events which feature interested local bands, artists and small businesses, who in turn need help with exposure. These clients donate their talents to help support their worthy causes.
Kristen met with Anne Asman, Development Director for the Department of Psychiatry, in January to talk about how they can help raise money for the Autism Hope Fund. Kristen's only method, of publicity was posters, flyers, Smithtix, Facebook and word of mouth through stores similar to Zumiez. The tickets were $10 and all the money was to be donated to the Hope Fund. The concert was held March 21 at Kilby Court, a small audience venue located at 741 Kilby Court (330 W) in downtown Salt Lake City. Kristen also invited 2 local artists to sell goods and she organized a group of her friends to donate baked goods for a bake sale. The artists and the bake sale generated a third of the income.
A special thanks for the hard work goes to Kristen and her colleagues at Saxony Project, the donations from the artists, and friends, Kilby Court for the venue and the local bands that performed. The money raised will go directly to help families pay for autism assessments and referrals through the University's Autism Diagnostic Program.